Meewasin is recognized world-wide for its leadership in conserving the natural resources of the 6,700 hectares of the Meewasin Valley. Meewasin sites and areas are home to more than 300 plant species, 150 bird species, and numerous insects, amphibians, reptiles and animals. Meewasin strives to protect and enhance biodiversity in the Meewasin Valley through targeted conservation grazing, prescribed fire, ecological monitoring, removal of exotic invasive species and noxious weeds, native seed collection and planting of native grasses and wildflowers and clean-up of illegal dumping.
Meewasin Valley Authority Act
Meewasin is empowered by the Meewasin Valley Authority Act to coordinate or control the use of development, conservation maintenance and improvement of land development within the conservation zone. It is guided by a statutory committee of professional planners, architects, landscape architects, engineers and geological engineers.
Complementary to other environmental or heritage review permitting processes, it focuses on the following parameters:
- Consistency with the Meewasin Development Plan;
- Conservation, preservation and interpretation of significant natural habitat;
- Protection of slope stability and good drainage practices;
- Design of aesthetics complementary to the natural setting of the river valley;
- Provision for public access.
The original concept of Meewasin was to create a ribbon of green with the river as a spine. Meewasin will seek continued opportunities to secure long-term stewardship of land with conservation values. Stewardship may be secured through public ownership, conservation easements (legally binding), land purchase or through voluntary easements (goodwill agreements).
Meewasin Valley-wide Resource Management Plan
The Meewasin mandate is to ensure a healthy and vibrant river valley for now and future generations with a balance between human use and conservation.
Meewasin follows a comprehensive plan to:
- Act as a conservation agency;
- Initiate a land stewardship program;
- Maintain resource management of the river valley;
- Restore damaged areas of the valley;
- Green the valley (afforestation);
- Enhance, restore and/or create wildlife habitat areas;
- Preserve remaining natural areas in the valley;
- Protect the natural and heritage resources; and
- Encourage river stewardship.
In 2015, Meewasin secured funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada to create a conservation action plan called the Valley-wide Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the Meewasin Valley, which will guide Meewasin’s conservation efforts over the next decade. The plan was developed in partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and engaged more than 50 stakeholders with representatives from all levels of government.
The RMP identified four conservation targets; rivers and creeks, swales, native grasslands, and wetlands. Threats were assessed and ranked, with the largest threat to the Meewasin Valley identified as invasive species. Other highly ranked threats include: dams and storm water management, runoff of pesticides and fertilizers, suburban development, trespass issues, fire and suppression, and regional climate change.
The RMP also identified more than 180 key conservation actions by Meewasin. Partnerships with like-minded organizations were identified as key to implementing the plan.
Meewasin continues to pursue other management tools throughout the valley that are intended to mimic natural disturbance regimes, including prescribed fire.
The Meewasin mandate is to ensure a healthy and vibrant river valley for now and future generations with a balance between human use and conservation by:
- Providing leadership in the management of resources;
- Promoting understanding, conservation and beneficial use of the valley; and
- Undertaking programs and projects in River Valley development and conservation.
Invasive Species Management
Meewasin promotes and maintains biodiversity and ecological integrity within the valley with an integrated approach to invasive species management. This approach has seen positive results with significant reduction of invasive species being observed. This includes reduction in provincially-designated noxious weeds of Common Tansy, Leafy Spurge, Absinthe, Baby’s Breath, and Nodding Thistle, to name a few.
Meewasin uses an integrated resource management approach to manage invasive species in the Meewasin Valley. One approach is to mimic natural disturbance through targeted conservation grazing or prescribed fire.
Some of the common Invasives found in the Meewasin Valley and their fact sheets can be found below:
For more information on invasive species in Saskatchewan visit Saskatchewan Invasive Species Council
European Buckthorn Control Program
European (Common) Buckthorn (Rhamnus carthartica) is prevalent in riparian forests of the Meewasin Valley, in upland sites in Aspen, Chokecherry and Saskatoon patches and in shelterbelts of other non-native species such as Caragana. European Buckthorn is a deciduous small tree or shrub, native to Europe. It is found in urban parks, natural areas, and in backyards within Saskatoon and surrounding area. These trees or shrubs crowd and shade out native understory plants, eventually displacing native trees and shrubs. It has been found up to 60 km north, 20 km south and throughout the city of Saskatoon.
European Buckthorn Control Program
From 1998 to 2019, Meewasin, in partnership with the City of Saskatoon and other agencies, controlled approximately 1.73 million stems along the Meewasin Valley and within the City of Saskatoon.
Over the years, various control techniques have been tried and researched, with the most cost and time effective control method being a basal bark herbicide application. This technique involves directly applying a herbicide called Garlon RTU to the stem of the European Buckthorn at approximately 5 cm above the soil surface. This herbicide penetrates the bark of the stem and trans-locates down to the roots. The herbicide is oil based, therefore can be applied during colder temperatures (up to -15C).
The control efforts are conducted by City of Saskatoon, Parks Division and Meewasin Resource Management staff who are certified herbicide spray applicators with the Government of Saskatchewan.
Targeted Conservation Grazing Program
Targeted conservation grazing is a cost effective means of maintaining large natural areas like the Meewasin Northeast Swale as it mimics natural disturbance regimes to promote biodiversity.
To find out more about targeted conservation grazing at Meewasin, view the PDFs below.
Leafy Spurge Flea Beetles
Meewasin has been collecting and releasing Leafy Spurge Flea Beetles on their sites for many years as part of the Resource Conservation’s management effort. This is part of an integrated approach of management, which also includes prescribed fire, grazing by sheep, hand-pulling, mowing, and spot spraying of herbicide if needed.
Leafy Spurge is a perennial invasive plant that takes over grasslands and pasture lands, spreading through seeds and roots. The Leafy Spurge Beetles are a means of biological control. The adult beetles feed on the leaves of the plants, but it is their larva which does the most control as they mine out the roots of the Leafy Spurge.
Prescribed Fire Program
Meewasin uses prescribed fire as a tool to achieve a range of resource management objectives. Some of the objectives include native grassland restoration, invigoration of native species, increased biodiversity, and invasive species management. Prescribed fire can be utilized across varying landscapes such as native grasslands, forests and croplands.
Meewasin Northeast Swale
The Meewasin Northeast Swale is an ancient river channel that begins at Peturrson’s Ravine and carves a 26 km long path adjacent to the South Saskatchewan River. The Swale contains considerable areas of native prairie grasslands and offers high quality biodiversity, proximity to urban areas, economic benefits for education and recreation, and a natural filter for our air and water. The Swale’s wetlands also provide flood control for the surrounding community. Within City limits, Meewasin manages 300 hectares of the Northeast Swale on behalf of the City of Saskatoon.
The diversity of environments offers a large variety of plant species (more than 200), birds (more than 100), and numerous mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and insects that are present in the Meewasin Northeast Swale on a regular basis.
The Swale is home to several rare, endangered or culturally significant species, including:
- Plants: Crowfoot Violet, Western Red Lily, Narrow-leaved Water Plantain, Sweet Grass
- Birds: Sprague’s Pipit, Barn Swallow, Loggerhead Shrike, Horned Grebe, Short-eared Owl, Common Nighthawk, Sharp Tailed Grouse
- Amphibians: Northern Leopard Frog
With less than 20% of native prairie remaining in Saskatchewan (Bailey, McCartney & Schellenberg, 20101), native grasslands are now one of the most imperiled ecosystems on the planet (Gauthier & Riemer, 20032) and are considered endangered (Trottier, 19923).
The Greater Swale has signs of human habitation and use over the past several centuries, including a remnant section of the Moose Woods – Batoche Trail, Middleton’s staging camp on the trek to the Battle of Batoche, the site of the telegraph line that linked North America to Europe by way of Russia, the site of the old town of Clarkboro and tipi rings from the encampments of the original residents of the Saskatoon area.
More recent archeological remains are the lime kilns near the swale and the holes left by the movement of large limestones used to build the University of Saskatchewan.
Losing this native prairie and wetland means the loss of thousands of years of natural and cultural history.
Click here for a detailed map of the Swale that outlines parking areas, and separates the Ecological Core and Recreational Zone.
Click here for a location map of the Meewasin Northeast Swale area, and see below for additional resources.
1 Bailey, A., McCartney, D., & Schellenberg, M. (2010). Management of Canadian prairie rangeland. Swift Current, SK: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Government of Canada.
2 Gauthier, D., & Riemer, G. (2003). Introduction to prairie conservation. In P. Partnership (Ed.), Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan 2003-2008. (pp. 1-8). Regina, SK: Canadian Plains Research Centre, University of Regina.
3 Trottier, G. (1992). A landowner’s guide: Conservation of Canadian prairie grasslands. Edmonton, AB: Ministry of Environment, Canadian Wildlife Service.
Urban Wildlife Information Network
Meewasin has taken a lead role, alongside Wild About Saskatoon and the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Zoo and Park, in creating the opportunity for Saskatoon to become the second city in Canada to join the Urban Wildlife Information Network, a partnership of researchers around North America who use wildlife monitoring protocols to better understand the ecology and behaviours of our urban wildlife species. This exciting initiative will provide a unique opportunity for numerous organizations across the Meewasin Valley to collaborate and understand urban wildlife better through the use of trail cameras and citizen science projects.
Join our monthly volunteer opportunities email list and become a steward of the river valley alongside Meewasin with activities that support biodiversity, wildlife safety, community events, and more!
Become a Citizen Scientist!
Citizen Science is a term that refers to public participation to scientific research. “Anyone can support Meewasin’s conservation efforts, and it’s a lot simpler than you may think.” Says Renny Grilz, Meewasin’s Resource Management Officer.
When you head outdoors for a local escape to get fresh air, along the way you may notice some interesting tracks on the ground, hear a bird’s singsong call, or you may even spot a small creature scurry across the earth. These small encounters may be exciting moments, but taking these observations a bit further can help local conservationists in a major way!
Meewasin and other conservation-focused organizations can utilize information recorded on databases such as iNaturalist to inform and direct future conservation efforts. For example, if a rare or endangered species was recorded in an area of the Meewasin Valley, future work will reflect these observations, with extra efforts to conserve this space or habitat.
iNaturalist is a citizen science app and website where you can find and collect information about the flora and fauna that you can find in the Saskatoon Region. Meewasin uses iNaturalist as a way to collect data on our natural areas and conservation areas such as the Northeast Swale and the river valley to learn more about these areas from a resource management planning perspective and long term ecological monitoring. Take pictures of plants and animals (or traces of them), share with fellow naturalists, and have the opportunity to discuss your findings. This helps Meewasin with identifying long term management of our sites, so the more information and citizen scientists involved, the better!
What is iNaturalist? Check out these info sheets on:
Other Citizen Science Apps and Programs
Outreach – Presentations
Meewasin’s Resource Management staff have presented to over 50 different groups, agencies and conferences and to over 9,000 people throughout Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and North Dakota over the last 4 years. Presentations and tours include various topics including: invasive species identification and management, native prairie management, prescribed fire, targeted conservation grazing, native prairie restoration, native plant identification, and watershed management. The groups include government agencies, watershed groups, producer groups, naturalist groups, and more!
Natural Areas Inventory
The Natural Areas Inventory Report was completed to assess the existing Green Network in the City of Saskatoon. It is intended to provide baseline data regarding Saskatoon’s Natural Assets (Aquatic, Forested & Shrubland, Grassland) and Enhanced Assets (Green Space and Agricultural Lands). It also analyzes species observations and cultural significance within the Green Network. The Natural Areas Inventory builds upon the success of Meewasin’s State of the Valley Report, which focuses on the entire Meewasin Valley. The Natural Areas Inventory was identified as a key action in the Meewasin Valley-wide Resource Management Plan.
Check it out: Natural Areas Inventory 2019
The report intent is to support the City of Saskatoon’s Green Infrastructure Strategy, and move toward Saskatoon’s vision of better integrating and conserving the city’s unique ecological network into the urban fabric